Massachusetts Medical Society: New EHR Meaningful Use Regulations Strike ''Reasonable'' Balance

New EHR Meaningful Use Regulations Strike ''Reasonable'' Balance


After many months of discussion, the state Board of Registration in Medicine recently proposed regulations to fulfill a 2012 state law that requires physicians to demonstrate their proficiency in electronic health records as a condition of licensure, effective Jan. 1, 2015.

The MMS, which has been advocating on the EHR/Meaningful Use issue for years, has been strongly asserting that a strict interpretation of the 2012 mandate could force thousands of doctors to lose their license. This scenario could trigger a terrible access crisis for our patients.

Under the leadership of MMS Past President Ronald Dunlap, M.D., staff worked with state regulators and urged them to develop rules that would meet the law’s intent without throwing our health care system into chaos.

Broad Set of Exemptions

The proposed regulations appear to meet that objective: they include a broad set of exemptions for certain license categories in which electronic health record use is intrinsic, such as in residency programs, or is not relevant, such as administrative licensees. Also exempt are interns, physicians with volunteer licenses, and physicians who are licensed but not currently practicing.

Aside from those exemptions, the proposal establishes multiple ways by which physicians may satisfy the one-time requirement.

Under the proposed rules, physicians may satisfy the requirement by personally achieving Stage 1 Meaningful Use or having a professional relationship with any Massachusetts hospital that has achieved Stage 1 Meaningful Use. Physician must be employed or credentialed by the hospital, or they must have a “contractual relationship” with the hospital.

CME Options

Under the proposed regulations, physicians may also comply with the EHR requirement by taking three hours of continuing medical education programs on meaningful use and its role in health IT. The MMS has one hour of relevant educational content already available, and it is developing more to be released well in advance of the requirements.

Another option for compliance is for a physician to become an authorized user of the state’s Health Information Exchange. This state-of-the-art system provides a special, secure webmail account for the transmission of electronic records.

Under the proposed regulations, physicians who might otherwise have their licenses lapse are able to ask the board for a 
90-day extension due to an “undue hardship” in meeting the requirement. However, this waiver must be filed at least 30 days before the applicant’s license renewal date.

MMS President Richard S. Pieters, M.D., praised the board’s recent step as a “very reasonable” approach to satisfying a broad set of concerns. “This proposal addresses all of our major concerns about the issue,” said Dr. Pieters. “We would like to thank the board for its hard work on these regulations.”

Board Hearing Comments

The MMS will be filing comments in support of the proposed regulations and encourages member physicians will do the same. The board will accept public comments on the regulations through Oct. 3, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. Comments may be submitted via email to Eileen. Any attached documents must be in Word format. All comments submitted are public records and will be posted to the state’s website.

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